In the first part of this article, Paula Wilson, Operations Manager, looked at recycling in the glass trade. Here, to mark Recycle Week, she looks a little wider.
We all know how important it is to recycle our household waste. Responsibly disposing of paper, plastic and metal containers is what most of us do.
The environmental challenge is to embed those same practices throughout industry. We should be working towards a circular economy where everything is reused and nothing is wasted.
It’s a philosophy that was first advanced in 2002 by the German chemist Michael Braungart and American architect William McDonough.
In their book, ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things,’ they said that all products should be conceived with intelligent design. The intention should be that everything is recycled as either ‘technical’ or ‘biological’ nutrients.
The book uses the 1912 voyage of a passenger ship leaving Southampton and steaming west towards the United States.
That ship was of course Titanic, and it was destined to come up against the natural world in the shape of an iceberg.
Cradle to Cradle
The book’s authors were making the point that, like Titanic, our industrial infrastructure remains powered by artificial sources of energy that are environmentally depleting.
Cradle to Cradle® instead models human industry on the natural world, in which materials are nutrients circulating in healthy, safe metabolisms.
It’s a philosophy that uses nature as a template for how we can redesign everything that we do – including the manufacturing and building industries – to be more eco-effective.
It’s a philosophy that has gained traction, although statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show that the UK’s construction, demolition, and excavation industries produce 61% of all waste generated.
That’s three times higher than industrial and commercial waste and five times higher than household waste.
According to government statistics, construction and demolition businesses in the UK generate over 66 million tonnes of waste.
However, the good news is that, despite the UK’s high output, the construction industry has a recovery rate of 91%.
Recovery rates are typically high for construction materials due to their high demand and greater market value.
In addition, many building materials can be reused with little effect on quality.
The benefits of proper construction waste management include, first and foremost, compliance because businesses are legally responsible for their waste, even after it has left the building site.
There is also a cost benefit, because landfill taxes are high and likely to continue to rise. With ‘waste’ construction materials being typically heavy, it adds a weighty cost to disposal.
Legally, all construction sites are required to handle and dispose of waste safely and responsibly. Therefore, procedures for handling waste should already be company policy.
However, it’s important that everyone on-site understands their responsibilities, not only to comply with the law, but to act as a responsible company.
At Wrightstyle, we believe that recycling should also have another dimension – that of refurbishing old buildings, rather than demolishing them.
We’ve also spoken out against one aspect to the government’s current construction plans because, it seems to us, there is little incentive to preserve the old.
That’s particularly the case on former brown-field sites where it can be cheaper to flatten everything and start again.
It’s not just about preserving the past. It’s about repurposing old buildings whenever possible, and encouraging a more environmentally-friendly way of building for the future.
That move towards repurposing old buildings has created a campaign by Architects’ Journal. It’s supported by no less than 14 Stirling Prize Winners.
So, for Recycle Week, let’s all have a look at our recycling policies. And, for planning authorities, let’s also see where we can reuse the old and repurpose for the future.